Fashionably Liberal or Not

In the comments for Conservative = Moral Relativist? Ed writes:

You run a great site, your columns make me laugh, and I plan on buying Old Man’s War as soon as it is available in stores.

However, I have an observation to make in regard to your political writings. I have been following your columns for more than a year now, and I notice a distinctive trend.

Your positions always seem to fall into the fashionably liberal camp: gay marriage is great; Reagan was a senile warmonger; Bush is an idiot, etc., etc…

I’m not saying that you are right or wrong in all of your positions, but rather that you have become predictable concerning political matters.

I posted a response in the comment thread, but I thought I’d comment about it more visibly. First, and most trivially, I don’t know if Ed’s assessment is entirely factually correct. I am of course famously for gay marriage. However, Reagan’s senility was a matter of medical fact rather than opinion (I believe it probably hit rather earlier than it was diagnosed), but I don’t recall saying he was a warmonger. Indeed, were he really a warmonger, he’d’ve invaded more than poor, pitiful Grenada. Likewise, I don’t think Bush is an idiot. Specifically, this is what I think about him, culled from an entry in March 2001, and which I feel is still pretty accurate:

Americans have yet to elect a truly stupid President; even Harding and Buchanan had their moments, few though they may have been. We did elect one with Alzheimer’s (Reagan, who was showing clear signs of deterioration in his first term), but that’s not the same thing. Reagan was smart (or at least not dumb as a bag of rocks) at one point. Neither is Dubya dumb; he’s got an MBA from Harvard, which takes at least some mental effort. He’s run several businesses with varying degrees of success. He didn’t run Texas into the ground, though given the fact that the governor in that state is given less real power than your average school bus driver, this is not nearly the accomplishment it might seem to be. Dubya is famously inarticulate, but lots of undumb people are inarticulate, just as anyone’s whose ever spent time with a radio DJ knows that having a smooth delivery is no indication of actual brain wattage. So, stipulated: Dubya is no moron.

However, one doesn’t get the idea that Bush spends any sort of time actually thinking. Long-time observers tell us that his management style tends to be to think in general terms and leave it to wonky underlings to fill in the details. We need a tax cut of some sort, Dubya says as he wanders through the Oval Office, on the way to somewhere else. You got it, boss! Says one of his bright white underlings, and off he goes to slash estate taxes or capital gains or some other annoyance of the rich folk. The problem with being a “big idea” guy is that the devil really is in the details. We need world peace could easily be accomplished through nuclear annihilation, you know. It’s awfully peaceful after you turn every living thing on the planet into glowing, irradiated ash.

However, leaving aside quibbles regarding specific data points, Ed’s larger point about my positions mirroring the “fashionably liberal” stands. The fashionably liberal like gay marriage, as do I. They are not fond of either Reagan or Bush, and neither am I. If you go down the checklist, you’ll find lots of other places where the fashionably liberal and I could link arms and sing “Kumbya” together. But then after a nice sing-along, they’d be horrified to discover my positions on gun control (mostly a waste of time), education (I’m big on the Dead White Guys), military (we should be able to kick everyone’s ass six times over) and drug legalization (aside from medical marijuana, let’s mostly not), and would then long to get as far away from my reactionary ass as possible and head to the showers to get all my cooties off of them.

And you know, I’m fine with that. Fundamentally, I’m not a fashionable person, which is why I’m still walking around wearing 1981-era checkered Vans and a green Hanes pocket tee I bought at Wal-Mart(!) for $4. As I’ve said before and will no doubt say again, my political opinions aren’t based on anyone’s ideology but my own. Admittedly, I’m plotzing about the wacky conservatives a lot these days, but you know, it’s not liberals who are currently gut-punching the Constitution from the White House. Get Kerry in there and doing things as stupidly as Bush is doing them and I imagine you’ll hear me kvetching about that as well. My opinions are sometimes liberal, sometimes conservative, but mostly they’re simply anti-stupid.

I occasionally think of writing a big, long entry which outlines all my thoughts on all the major policy issues of our day, but then I see the mass of Whatever readers opening up their veins rather than forcing themselves to read that lump of indigestible prose. So I’ll avoid that if it’s all the same. Of course, if you want to know what I think about a particular issue, feel free to ask. You know I’m not shy about spouting off my opinions, fashionably liberal or not.

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